Saturday, December 20, 2008

Power Tools Possibilities

For several years Rozzelle and Scearce have presented their Power Tools reading strategies in a variety of formats. They’ve tweaked, revamped, and tailored the presentation depending on the audience and prior feedback. The Power Tools workshop a week ago provided some more food for thought as the participant evaluations were read. It is nice to receive very positive feedback in the check the degree to which you agree to the statement boxes. Yet it is the comments that often are incredibly insightful and helpful in strengthening a professional development offering.

Several participants indicated that they would like to have a Power Tools II workshop available so that more strategies could be modeled and discussions among Power Tools users could be held. The School University Research Network (SURN) agrees. Jan has done intensive work with school systems over a period of time, so many materials, activities, and discussion starters are already produced. So we are looking at offering Power Tools II in the fall to folks who have completed Power Tools I. The focus will be on sharing our collective professional expertise in working with the Power Tools in our unique instructional settings. Of course additional strategies will be modeled as well.

A key question for educators currently using Power Tools and reaping the benefits is: How do I share what I am doing with my colleagues? One indicator of a highly effective teacher is someone who looks beyond his or her professional practice and positively impacts the work of others. Sometimes simply sharing a successful lesson plan starts someone else’s wheels turning. Modeling a strategy with novice teachers and discussing the connections, issues, and rewards as a form of “cognitive apprenticeship” develops and adds a new tool to the beginning teacher’s tool box of strategies. Sharing experiences on this blog is another way to reach beyond your classroom’s door.

One of the evaluation comments suggested another way to share the Power Tools with others. A paraeducator who attended the two-day workshop shared that her participation in the professional development equipped her with insights and strategies to support the teacher’s instruction and the student’s learning. We know that school wide implementation of instructional approaches is powerful as students use tools across disciplines in authentic ways. One can start on a micro-level with their classroom, department, or grade level. Just think of the benefits is the people invested in student instruction understand and apply a core group of instructional strategies:

  • Paraeducators can better support the work in the classroom if they understand the use and educational benefits of a particular strategy. The benefit can be much stronger for the school system as investing in professional development of paraeducators can increase retention rates and more importantly, paraeducators are an important source of future teachers as some elect to complete coursework for their teaching license. So, the benefit continues.
  • Cooperating teachers (sometimes called clinical faculty or supervising teachers) could model the strategies with their student teachers. In the short term, the classroom both teachers familiar with the strategies which translates into coherent instruction. In the midterm, a new teacher may discuss Power Tools during an employment interview as an example of work that was done and set him/herself a part from other applicants. Finally in the long term, when newly minted teachers go into their classrooms, they have additional tools and resources that support and foster student learning.
  • Mentor teachers with their new teachers may attend the professional development and work on implementing the strategies together. Additionally, a mentor who has done Power Tools I may do Power Tools II and work with his or her “mentee” who attends Power Tools I.
  • A colleague sharing what works well with others is a powerful endorsement of and way to share effective strategies.

So how do you (or will you) share what you are doing that gets results?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy

Seventy-four educators from around Virginia attended the Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy 2-day workshop in Williamsburg, VA. There is a synergy that occurs in well-constructed and worthwhile professional development offerings. Presenters and participants interact in meaningful ways sharing their expertise, work context, and experiences. Workshop participant, Ed Shepherd (assistant principal and blogger) suggested that a blog be started to share the Power Tools materials. His blog about the workshop may be read at Inspired by Ed's passion for technology and motivated by the tips for getting started he offered, SURN created a blog.

Presenters Carol Scearce and Jan Rozzelle modeled a variety of literacy strategies while providing information, tips, and research to support the use of the strategies to increase student comprehension and retention of content material. From the vocabulary organizer that guides students in defining, visualizing, and linking unfamiliar words with their prior knowledge to interactive note taking and the golden lines template, participants interacted with the material and began to visualize how the strategies could be implemented in their instructional settings.

SURN invites workshop participants to share their thoughts about the workshop and the implementation of the strategies with their students as well as questions.

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